Possessive Form of Nouns

Introduction to the Possessive Form of a Noun

In English grammar, there is a concept of using nouns in a special form to signify possession. This form is known as the possessive form of a noun. It is used to denote a relation of ownership or possession between two nouns. This tutorial aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to correctly use the possessive form of nouns in English grammar.

What is the Possessive Form of a Noun?

Any noun that is used to show ownership or possession of something by someone or something is said to be in its possessive form. It typically follows the format of 'noun + apostrophe + s' or if the noun is a plural that ends in 's', it will be 'noun + apostrophe'. For example, in the phrase "John's notebook," 'John' is a noun in its possessive form, demonstrating that the notebook belongs to John.

The Two Types of Possessive Nouns

There are two types of possessive nouns, namely, singular possessive nouns and plural possessive nouns. Here is how you can identify and use both types.

Singular Possessive Nouns

Singular possessive nouns are quite straightforward. A singular noun is made possessive by adding an apostrophe and an 's' at the end of the word. The pattern is 'singular noun + apostrophe + s'.

Examples of Singular Possessive Nouns

  • Girl's doll (The doll belonging to the girl)
  • Mother's purse (The purse that belongs to the mother)
  • John's car (The car belonging to John)

Plural Possessive Nouns

Creating possessive forms from plural nouns is slightly different from the singular possessive form. Where a plural noun ends in an 's', only an apostrophe is added at the end of the word. The pattern, therefore, becomes 'plural noun + apostrophe'.

Examples of Plural Possessive Nouns

  • Girls' bathroom (The bathroom for the girls)
  • Friends' movie (The movie selected by the friends)
  • Students' books (Referring to books that belong to the students)

Rules for Using Possessive Nouns

Knowing the difference between singular and plural possessive forms is just the beginning. There are some rules you should follow to use possessive nouns correctly.

Rule 1: Ignore Apostrophe Rules for It's/Its

In usual circumstances, an apostrophe followed by "s" is used to indicate possession. However, this rule does not apply to "it's" and "its".

  • "It's" is a contraction for "it is" or "it has".
  • "Its" is a possessive form of "it".


  • It's raining. (It is raining.)
  • The cat is eating its food.

Rule 2: Singular Nouns Ending in "S"

For singular nouns that already end in "s", the rules can vary. Some experts suggest adding an apostrophe + s ('s), while others suggest just an apostrophe, especially for names.

  • Charles's book
  • Charles' book

Both practices are correct, but it's best to stay consistent within a document.

Rule 3: Plural Nouns not Ending in "S"

For plural nouns that don't end in 's', add an apostrophe and 's' at the end of the word to show possession.

  • Women's rights
  • Children's books

Common Mistakes with Possessive Nouns

English learners often make these two common mistakes:

Mistake 1:

Incorrect: girls's toys
Correct: girls' toys
When the plural noun ends in 's', add an apostrophe at the end only.

Mistake 2:

Incorrect: it's tail
Correct: its tail
Remember that "its" is a possessive pronoun, while "it's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has".


Using possessive nouns correctly is crucial for clear and accurate English communication. Review this guide and practice using possessive nouns in your conversations or writing. Always remember the rules, and with time and practice, using possessive nouns will become second nature to you.

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